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Published: August 13th 2012
Typical outdoor seating along the marina for the many, many restaurants
I was looking forward to Friday last week because that was when I would have my first guests at my new apartment. Fortunately, my place is still too new to be messy, so it was easy to clean. However, cooking was something new! I haven't cooked since I've been here, so I was excited.
First, I had to do some grocery shopping, which is an adventure itself. It is very hard to find things here that I am used to cooking with. For instance, the vanilla extract I found was not in a little vial, but as a powder. I hope that is the right thing... it tasted fine! Some of my usual vegetables either looked amazing (sweet potatoes, okra) or disgusting (celery). This would also be the first time I would be cooking with meat, which I was a little nervous about, but the chicken breasts looked good and I got frozen shrimp. I stocked up on lots of spices - things like cayenne and black pepper were surprisingly the hardest to find. But you can find just about every fruit and vegetable imaginable here. Basically I did three shopping trips to get my supplies. And even though I
Another delicious iftar - Ramadan is almost over...
finally found a good cheap toaster, I never found a slow cooker...
The next adventure was figuring out how to actually cook using my kitchen appliances. I turned the power on to the stove, but I still could not figure out how to actually turn the stove top ON. The oven was warming, but there was no oven rack. I put in a cookie sheet and placed my cupcakes on first, though they wound up with burnt bottoms (still tasted yum though). Finally, after shear frustration, I pressed the little buttons on the stove again and this time the burners did do something. You have to press the buttons pretty hard on the glass stove top and then select how hot you want the burners (from 1-9). I still have not quite figured out how to turn DOWN the burners without turning it off and starting over, but at least I figured it out. Go me!
Another adventure was using the metric system. How many mL is in a cup? My recipes were all in cups and teaspoons and such, but my utensils were all in mL. So, I did a lot of guestimating. The oven is in degrees Celsius, but fortunately, I had noted the two temperatures beforeahand.
I spent ALL day friday on my feet (seriously, my feet still hurt), with two trips to the grocery store for supplies (drinks, miscellaneous cooking supplies). However, I was proud of my creations - a southern style dinner selection. I made sweet potato casserole (minus the marshmallows), green bean casserole, fried okra, jambalaya, tuna salad, and carrot cake cupcakes. Denny helped by bringing me some duty free alcohol (vodka and wine). And Jamie (accompanied by Malek and Addi) helped out by bringing some cookies and fresh squeezed lemonade (that went FAST), along with some vodka to mix. Sam and Roman brought me wine, and Roman brought a couple of candles that actually go along quite well with my color schemes! 😊 Joevet, Joselet, Ann, and Laila brought their karaoke machine, so it turned into a nice little party! The food went pretty fast, and even though I didn't have my dang slow cooker, I was very happy with my Jambalaya, for which I received complements (even though it didn't have sausage). I explained to some people who asked about southern cooking. Sure it isn't the healthiest, but it is darn tasty!!!!
Later, instead of karaoke, we played Telestrations. My sister's friend, Vicky, had introduced me to this a couple of years ago and it was an amazing game (especially with my dad's irritating, yet hilarious, contributations). And as usual, there is one in every bunch! We had to divide our 12 into teams of two for the game, which actually was almost even more fun. Joselet and Ann were the troublemakers in this crew - some of their responses were completely out of left field. That is the fun of the game. I had wondered what it would be like with the language and cultural barrier, but for the most part it was fine (with the except of "gravy train"). Telestrations is like pictionary meets telephone - you draw a word or phrase, the next person guesses, the next person draws the guess, the next person guesses, and so on. Awesome game and everyone loved it. 😊 Karaoke next time, I guess.
The next morning, I woke up around 8, read some of my book and waited for the maid to come at 10. Jamie and Addi went to work for a while, and when the (2) maids arrived, I went to the Mall to try yet again to get my cable and internet set up. Fortunately, since it was so early, there was no line and I got right up to the desk, but it still took about 45 minutes because the system is apparently really slow (it had crashed completely the week before, remember?). I hear not-so-great things about Du, which is what I am stuck with, but I also hear that it is improving. I hope! The Emirati woman at the counter was very nice, so I didn't mind having to sit there for a while. Then I was all set up for installation for Monday afternoon. Woot!!! I then went to a couple of stores and purchased a second throw fleece blanket and some cheap picture frames (seriously, they were like $1-$2 each).
I got back home just as the maids finished, paid them and laid down to relax. I read my book and then passed completely out for a couple of hours. Soon, I got a text from Addi to go see a movie at the Mall (twice in one day!) at 4:00. I had already seen Snow White and the Huntsman, but honestly before 7pm during Ramadan, there is next to nothing to do, so anything to help pass the time is fine by me. Even though that meant I couldn't get popcorn - no popcorn at a movie is just wrong... It was just as lame a movie the second time as the first. The lines are dreadful and she is really one of the worst actresses I've seen. And I really hate this new trend where people, especially the younger actors, do this constant heavy breathing. It is very distracting!
After the movie, we received a text from Jamie to meet her in Dubai Marina for Iftar. Yay! It was this very nice place, Reemz Bawadi, Jamie and I had walked past before in the marina. The restaurant looks nice and cozy on the outside, with lights decorating the patio and sitting right on the water. We sat inside in the A/C. We were seated around 6:45, when they brought us our water and I got an apricot juice. They said we could go to the buffet as the salads had just been brought out. However, you cannot eat until 7:00. The salad selection was not as big as the previous iftar I'd been to, but it was still good. And the arabic bread with hummus was a great starter. Jamie brought two of her coworkers, Malek and a guy that had recently come from the UK to help with a big report that was due. I believe this was his first Iftar. Next, I went for the main course, which included lots of rice, vegetables and an absolutely delicious fish course. Malek remembered my taste for okra, so pointed me to the "okra with oil" dish, which was also yum. Jamie and I went to get a couple of platefuls of the various desserts while the guys enjoyed the sheesha and the olympics (handball on one screen, power walking on another and watching Mexico win soccer on yet another - very cool!!!). Jamie said this was her favorite iftar, but I actually like the other one much much better. They had more good food and I liked the grill aspect (the shwarma and kebabs were superb at the other place).
Yesterday was easier at work than I'd thought it would be. Phew. Poor Jamie though - she is going to be working some long days and late nights this week! However, the best news is that I got my National Id - well they texted me to say it is ready, now I just have to pick it up! That means I can get my license and soon a car!!!
And for the final sad note: RIP Grandmom. I am glad I got to spend time with you this past year and I'm sorry I couldn't be there at the end. I will miss you.
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